Though all but a handful of Yellowstone National Park employees were furloughed for the last 10 days of 2018, the park’s December and yeartotal visitation was high.
According to an end-of-the-year count released Wednesday by the park, Yellowstone saw a total of 4,114,999 recreation visits in 2018, making it the third busiest year on record.
In December alone, the park counted 22,380 recreation visits — 2,700 more visits than it saw in December 2016, the park’s busiest year on record. In fact, this December was Yellowstone’s busiest since 2001 — the year the Park Service limited snowmobiles in the park.
Park entrance stations went unstaffed for much of the shutdown, so the Park Service used data collected by an automated counter that recorded vehicle traffic at the North Entrance and reports from oversnow concessioners to calculate visitation numbers, according to a park press release.
Unlike during some past shutdowns — notably the October, 2013 impasse, which lasted 16 days, and the December, 1995-January, 1996 shutdown that lasted 21 days — Yellowstone remained open to visitors during the recent funding lapse.
Under its shutdown contingency plan, Yellowstone allowed private concessioners to pick up the government’s tab for road maintenance.
“We’ve had very solid winter numbers,” Mike Keller, general manager of Xanterra, the concessioner that operates Yellowstone National Park Lodges, told The Enterprise. “We had great weather and snow conditions, which helped a bunch.”
After seeing more than 29,000 visits in December, 1994, Yellowstone recorded only 7,814 visits in December, 1995 — a drop Keller said was due to the park closing during the shutdown.
He is glad, he said, that rule changes made it possible for the park to stay open through this shutdown so visitors could come to the park.
Source: Livingston Enterprise, February 7, 2019 By: Joseph Bullington — Enterprise Staff Writer